(Note: I visited Cape Town in March 2015.)
This is a city of art with a message. Everywhere you turn, there are murals, museums, crafts, and graffiti telling the tense and oppressive struggles of Capetonians. One of the first murals I encountered depicted a blindfolded woman's face painted on a crumbling wall behind a chained link fence. All of this surrounded by the white washed beauty of wealthy building, and inscribed with the message, "All shall be equal before the law."
colorful breathtaking striving
Views & sites
One of my favorite places in Cape Town is the unique and vintage movie theater, the Labia. Named after founder Princess Labia, the theater was converted from the former Italian embassy ballroom in 1949. The theater not only shows art, historical and recent films, but also has a coffee shop, snack bar, and full bar! And it's located across the street from the Company Gardens, so it's a perfect stop after a day touring around.
I couldn't get tickets when I visited, but this puppet theater for adults gets rave reviews! The photos from their FB page are intriguing, as well. The theater features massive puppets (and works of art in their own right!) and story lines to appeal to adults rather than children. I would definitely try to get tickets, if they are still up and running.
- springbok sausages
- buttermilk rusks
- Boerewors "boerie" rolls
- koeksisters (a kind of braided donut)
- melt in your mouth calamari at the waterfront
- the local wines
- a beer or two from the top of Table Mountain!
3. Go on foot. If you don't need a lot of sleep, I recommend staying near Bree and Long Streets. They have an active nightlife that go into the wee hours. Many of the tourist sites are within walking distance, and the path through the Company Gardens might be one of the most beautiful urban walk ways in the world. Be safe and don't walk alone at night, even in these areas; take a taxi or Uber instead.
2. Uber. If you decide to stay further out (an excellent way to cut costs), then Uber is a quick and easy way to get to destinations efficiently. I've traveled to many cities, and this is one of the best (besides San Francisco) because there are so many drivers available. Tip: if this is your first time using the service, download the phone app before you go.
1. City Sightseeing bus. I have used hop on/ hop off buses in various cities, and the City Sightseeing buses in Cape Town have been- by far- the most efficient. They stop at all the neighborhoods and tourist sites you'll want to check out, and they run regularly and on time. I got a 48 hour ticket and used it to travel all over the city for one price- a great deal in my opinion! They have three routes from which you can choose, one taking you around the city, another exploring the peninsula (including penguins and Kirstenbosch Nature Reserve), and another focusing on the historical downtown area. I took the red line and was pleased at how much I was able to explore!
There were a lot of places to shop around Cape Town, but Heartworks was simply charming. The owner travels all around South Africa, collecting arts and crafts to sell to tourists. You'll find colorful wire baskets, hand-stitched dolls and elaborately embroidered pillows, gorgeous necklaces and earrings dripping with beads, and so much more! I purchased items for my own home, but many more items for friends back home- and everyone loved what I gave them! There are three locations. Be sure to visit at least one!
We happened to visit the infamous Table Mountain in the afternoon. We headed up in a cable car, though those with more time and lung capacity could certainly hike, and decided to sit at the cafe with a few adult beverages to enjoy the amazing view! It was a highlight of my trip to sit back, relax, chat with locals, and drink in the sunset. But be warned that the last cable car down is at 6pm! Highly recommended experience... and one I will certainly never forget.
Real world details
For solo travelers, you may experience the dichotomy of good and bad encounters. For the most part, I found that traveling on my own meant that people were extremely friendly! Many waiters and customers would sit and chat with me for long stretches, and several invited me along with them to other bars and public places. I found it easy to chat with people and felt comfortable dining on my own in restaurants or visiting tourist spots. I did, however, feel the need to be wary when traveling on foot in the evening, and I was careful to keep valuables locked away when walking through Company Gardens and on Long Street. Take the usual precautions and be aware of your surroundings, and you'll have a great time.